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Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne is the capital city of French Guiana in South America. And, it is where this pepper is native to. Cayenne pepper is a red hot chili pepper that is widely used to flavor countless dishes. It has a skinny body with a somehow rippled skin. Despite that, this pepper is highly pungent. In fact, in ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. Yet, this pepper can be turned into many products. Crushing dehydrated cayenne peppers in a food processor makes red pepper flakes. One step further, pulverizing these peppers creates cayenne powder or dust. The two can be used interchangeably; however, some recipes call for cayenne pepper flakes as it adds crunch and aesthetics that the dust or powdered cayenne pepper cannot provide. Nevertheless, both products start by drying cayenne peppers. 

Cayenne Pepper Trivia

  • Cayenne pepper is botanically a berry fruit and not a vegetable.
  • Cayenne pepper is ten times hotter than jalapeño peppers. Likewise, it starts with green color and turns into red hues as they mature, when it becomes spicier.
  • Cayenne pepper has numerous health benefits. It boosts the immune system, enhances metabolism, reduces insulin levels, prevents stomach ulcers, stimulates blood circulation, aids in digestion, alleviates gas problems, stimulates appetite, soothes joint pain and stiffness, reduces inflammation, reduces cholesterol levels, and supports various organs like lungs, heart, stomach, kidney, spleen, liver, and pancreas.
  • Cayenne pepper helps in treating fungal infection, muscle spasms, and scars when topically applied.
  • Cayenne pepper is one of the primary active ingredients of pepper spray.
  • When the fall season comes, you can pull up the whole cayenne plant and hang it upside down; this procedure will preserve your peppers.
  • Cayenne pepper shouldn’t be washed until you’re about to use it. It deteriorates faster with water.

Cayenne Pepper Buying Guide

Cayenne pepper is relatively easy to find in your favorite grocery stores and online shops. The only disadvantage in buying store-bought ones, however, is that you wouldn’t know how old these peppers are. The older they are, the lesser the heat it brings. Thus, it’s quite inconvenient to keep on adjusting your recipes. Nevertheless, here are some things to look out for when you opt to buy the store-bought ones:

  1. Look for cayenne pepper in the spice aisle. 
  2. Check out the sodium content if there is. Cayenne pepper should have close to zero sodium content, as that indicates its purity. Or better yet, opt for no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium.
  3. Check out the ingredients list to see if there are other spices involved in the product.

Fortunately, when you buy at various farmers’ markets, you can ask the salesperson about the pepper’s age. That way, you’ll know right there and then how much heat your cayenne peppers could provide. Some local food vendors even offer free samples for you to try. And the best part is, farmers’ markets showcase cayenne peppers in almost all forms, from freshly harvested and dried-whole, to flakes and powder, to sauces and salsas. Thus, if you are confused about which cayenne pepper is best to buy, consider the needs of your dishes. Here are some varieties and its common uses:

  • Whole, fresh cayenne peppers – used for fast-cooking specialties like stir-fries, salsas, salads, pickles, and cocktails.
  • Whole, dried cayenne peppers – used for hot infusions like pasta water, stock, and broths. You can also rehydrate these and purée them into salsas. They are sweeter and tend to burn slower compared to the fresh ones.
  • Cayenne pepper flakes – used to finish or add heat to cooked or already prepared meals like pizzas and salads. You can also use this when you’re cooking; if you want your dish to be spicy at all, add the flakes at the beginning. Otherwise, if you just want a nice pop of heat, add the flakes at the end. 
  • Cayenne pepper dust or powder – used to infuse heat that goes into the heart of the dish. Unless your cayenne powder is not in its purest form, meaning it contains different spices, cayenne pepper dust, or powder tends to be the spiciest among all its forms.

Cayenne Pepper Production & Farming in Texas

Cayenne pepper plant is one of the crops that thrive in Texas’ hot summer months. In Central Texas, the planting season is from mid-March to mid-July since the soil is at least 70ºF during this period. If you have a greenhouse, cayenne pepper can be available all-year-round. Nonetheless, this plant can easily be grown as it only needs at least six hours of sunlight each day in a well-drained soil that is mildly acidic. The plant grows between two to four feet tall and the fruit is usually harvested towards the beginning of fall. Upon harvest, the fruit is often dried, ground to flakes, pulverized, or puréed for later use. It can also be turned into a few Texas’ seasoning favorites like Southern-style vinegar pepper sauce, or Peppa sauce as the locals call it, and hot sauces.

Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:

Fortunately, the majority of cayenne pepper products that we found in stores contain no additives and chemicals. Only a few brands have some but it is minimal. Hence, as we scrutinize each brand, here are the additives that we found:

  • MSG – Monosodium Glutamate is used to enhance the flavor of almost any product. It is the one responsible for creating that umami flavor. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause headaches, flushing, palpitations, sweating, nausea, numbness, and weakness to some people. It allegedly can cause asthma, brain damages, and even cancer; however, these allegations remained controversial.
  • Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA. 
  • Natural and artificial flavorings – These are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For cayenne pepper dust and flakes, some natural flavorings include: fennel seed powder, paprika, and other spices and herbs.


Cayenne pepper dust and flakes are packaged in a variety of ways. It can come in pet bottles, jars, tubs, glass and plastic containers, pouches, and single-use packets.

Enjoying Cayenne Pepper

In Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines, cayenne pepper is liberally sprinkled in spicy bean dishes, dips, and enchilada sauces. It also makes a great addition to barbecue marinades and casseroles, and it is mostly used in crafting Creole and Cajun dishes like gumbo and jambalaya. You can also make a great traditional Spanish rice with the use of this spice. Interestingly, cayenne pepper is a popular seasoning for hot chocolates in Southwestern cuisine. Nevertheless, this spice, regardless if it’s in flake or powder form, can be enjoyed not only in meat and seafood but also in cheese, eggs, and vegetables like eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and corn. Just be reminded that homemade cayenne pepper dust and flakes tend to be spicier than the commercially produced ones.


Homemade cayenne pepper dust and flakes should be kept in an airtight container like ziplock bags or mason jars. For cayenne powders, you may opt to use a funnel when transferring it into jars to prevent it from spilling. As long as you store them in a dry and dark area far from hot zones like stoves, grills, or ovens, your cayenne peppers could last for years. On another note, whole cayenne peppers may be frozen in the freezer. They will definitely not lose their flavors in there, and fortunately, it remains crispy!

Let’s get grinding!

Now that you have fresh cayenne peppers on hand, it’s time to make your own cayenne pepper flakes and powder. Here’s a quick recipe to start:


  • Cayenne peppers, as needed (Preferably red but green also works fine)


  1. Dry the peppers. Start by sorting and removing the blemished ones, leaving the stems attached to the pepper. Wash and dry the peppers using a kitchen towel. If you are doing this on a humid day, you might want to slit your peppers as this promotes air circulation which can prevent molds. Then, sew your peppers by puncturing the green cover part of the stem, using a needle with thicker thread. When it looks like a chili necklace, it is now ready to be hanged in a dry and dust-free area. Leave it there for about 2-3 weeks. Take it out the string once the cayenne peppers are dry and brittle.
  2. Place dried peppers into a spice grinder, coffee grinder, blender, or food processor. Turn the notch a little at a time (usually 2-4 quick pulses) until you see cayenne pepper flakes. Take it out and store accordingly, or give it a few more pulses to make cayenne pepper powder. Chef tip: When opening the lid of your equipment, do not let your face close to the vessel. The powdered cayenne pepper goes through the air and it might hurt your eyes if you do that. Just, prepare to sneeze though.



  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 16.7 1%
  • Carbs: 3g 1%
  • Sugar: 0.5g
  • Fiber: 1.4g 6%
  • Protein: 0.6g 1%
  • Fat: 0.9g 1%
  • Saturated Fat: 0.2g 1%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 1.6mg 0%
  • Vitamin C 4mg 7%
  • Vitamin A 2185IU 44%
  • Calcium 7.8mg 1%
  • Iron 0.4mg 2%
  • Potassium 106mg 3%
  • Vitamin E 1.6mg 8%
  • Vitamin K 4.2mcg 5%
  • Vitamin B6 0.1mg 6%
  • Folate 5.6mcg 1%
  • Magnesium 8mg 2%
  • Phosphorus 15.4mg 2%
  • Manganese 0.1mg 5%
  • Copper 0mg 1%
  • Zinc 0.1mg 1%

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